Lets Be Real Lisbon

The stepping stone at the bottom of the Initiation Well at Quinta de Regaleira

Lisbon is still on fire, with Tourism booming and we know what that means. All the amazing hip, happening places with the hottest chefs, the best tourist attractions are becoming difficult to get into. Who wants to spend a million dollars staying at boutique hotels and half of their vacation standing in line or walking around for hours trying to find that one super hip new restaurant when you could have stopped at ten really nice places along the way?

Beautiful Lisbon makes it very easy to have a great time

Transit is easy and dependable but hilly Lisbon is very walkable so wear good walking shoes and work out those calves. Take a day trip to Sintra and maybe another to the beach. Eat a Pasteis de Nata in  Belem and grab a glass of wine from the little Wine To Go truck beside the Tower of Belem (buy tickets for the Jeronimos monastery online though), check out the Castle Jorge, high above the city, take the damned tram 28 because it’s charming as hell and yes, have empty pockets and hold on to your bag. Go ahead, it’s okay to be be a tourist.

As the wise Rhianna once said: Walk walk walk walk walk walk

To stay:

ancient streetcars and funiculars are the best way to get around hilly lisbon

Airbnb because  for half the price of a trendy boutique hotel you can stay in a beautiful apartment and pretend you live here for week.

The Barrio Alto and yes, I understand that this is not for everyone. During the day, it’s a sleepy, quaint mess of narrow, cobblestone streets that seem to all end up at the same spot but once the sun starts to set, BAM. The doors roll up, the tables and chairs come out to crowd the already narrow streets and the party doesn’t stop until the wee hours. It’s noisy and chaotic and I love it.

Alfama, Baixa Chiado and Graca are also great areas to stay in. Keep in mind that the farther out from the action you stay means more Ubers to get back and forth so do your math.

Eating

Lisbon makes it very easy to eat well without a ton of effort

Book one fancy restaurant dinner but the rest of the time it’s better to eat simple, tasty food out and about in a relaxed setting. I am here to soak up culture, not collect Michelin star notches on my expanding belt. Lisbon is one of the those cities where you have to work pretty hard to have bad food so just let it go. Oh and it’s very vegan/vegetarian friendly but for that, you must research a bit

Prado, Taberna Fina are hot or Belcanto (tasting menus start at €185) and Quorum if you like your food expensive and tweezered

O Trevo where the best bifana ( wine soaked pork piled on a crusty bun with yellow mustard) and an ice cold beer will set you back €2.80 and the daily specials run around €5. At lunch you belly up to the bar or squeeze in at a communal table, shoulder to shoulder with locals having lunch.

Ramiro remains the iconic stop for a seafood orgy

Take the ferry across the river to Almada’s Ponto Final for food that tastes like someone’s grandmother cooked it (reservations now a must) or, better yet, stop at Atira te ao rio right next door for the same view with, I hate to say it, better, more modern food and you can get a front row seat to the sunset.

LX Factory to see what the beautiful, young Lisbon hipsters are up to. With so many great shops, galleries and eateries there’s not enough room to swing cat.

To shop:

Avida Portuguesa – the store is stunning and it’s overflowing with the best of everything  you could ever want to bring home from Portugal.

Conserveira de Lisboa – you think you know canned seafood? Think again.

Luvaria Ulisses – a leather glove shop the size of a tin can where you can buy alarmingly soft leather gloves in any colour or style. Founded in 1925, it’s the only shop left in Lisbon that sells nothing but gloves

Day Trips:

less crowded but worthy of a visit, Monserrate and Quinta de Regaleira in nearby Sintra

Sadly, Sintra has become a badly managed tourist trap so skip the popular Pena, the beautiful but almost Disneyesque Palace and visit the jaw dropping Quinta de Regaleira and Monserrate instead. After a short commuter train ride from Lisbon, grab a tuktuk ( €5-10 each to go up to Monseratte and €5 each to come back to town) from the Sintra train station up the mountain to Monserrate and back and then walk to Quinta from the centre of town after grabbing a coffee or a beer. The snack bar at Quinta is actually reasonably priced and so grab lunch there.

Cascais if you want to experience a bit of Yorkville on the beach.

This is the best cooking class you will find for a fun morning/afternoon:

Book the market cooking class at Mesa Luisa and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Read more about my thoughts on this experience here.

 

Bottom line, look for lots of young, happy, hip people enjoying their food and drink OR , as always, a bunch of old Portuguese people eating somewhere. You can’t go wrong. Again, listen to Rhianna, strap on cosy shoes and go.